Mur de Bretagne: Alberto Contador showed his true colours at last after a shaky start to the Tour de France with a stinging attack in the fourth stage on Tuesday.
The three-times champion, who had lost 1:42 in the first two stages to Andy Schleck, produced a trademark acceleration in the steep finish to Mur de Bretagne with the runner-up from the last two years eight seconds behind.
Although the amount of time gained was minimal, Contador sent a warning to the Luxembourg rider as the 28-year-old Spaniard took second place behind Australian Cadel Evans.
Contador, who is waiting on a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision over a failed dope test in last year`s race, lost over a minute in the first stage after being held up behind a massive pile-up.
"I am happy. I wanted to test my rivals, see if I could take time off them. Overall I`m happy even though it is annoying (that I did not win the stage) because the team has been working very hard," Contador told reporters at his Saxo Bank team bus.
When Contador powered away from the pack 1.3 kms from the finish line, Andy Schleck could not even stand up on his pedals.
"It was hard to take more time over just one kilometre but I`m grateful I could take those eight seconds," said Contador, who still lies 41st in the overall standings, 1:42 adrift of yellow jersey holder Thor Hushovd.
"He passed his test," said Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis, who was Schleck`s boss in the last two Tours before the Luxembourg rider left to create his own team Leopard-Trek.
The last two kilometres were a demanding climb at an average gradient of 6.9 percent, with a peak at 10.1 percent.
"This morning, he told us that he wanted to win but unfortunately he lost Matteo Tosatto (to a flat tyre) in the finale and the strength he lost to find a good place in the peloton on his own cost him dearly in the sprint," Saxo Bank sports director Bradley McGee said about Contador.
Schleck, also a great climber, failed to follow the pace but he was not overly worried.
"When they started to accelerate, I tried to manage my efforts. I thought I would come back in the last kilometre but it did not happen. It`s not catastrophic, though," he told reporters.
"I knew such a climb would not suit me too well. I prefer longer climbs because I don`t have it for those punchy ascents."
Last year, Schleck lost 10 seconds to Contador in the four-km climb to Mende.